Elizabeth Kemp — actress and teacher at The Actor’s Studio — passed away after a battle with cancer on September 2. She was 65-years-old.
Kemp was born November 5, 1951 in Key West, Florida. After graduating from High School — where she won an award for Creative Achievement — she moved to New York City to study at both The Art Student’s League and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She began her acting career doing theater, and was mentored by Elia Kazan. She was also a series regular for four years on the soap opera Love of Life. News of Kemp’s passing was reported by THR.
It was in 1980 when Kemp made her feature film debut, in the horror movie He Knows You’re Alone. Kemp, who played the lead character’s best friend, was not the only actor to call He Knows You’re Alone her debut film — it was also the first movie for Tom Hanks.
She followed up with a five episode run on the TV series I Can Jump Puddles and roles in the movies The Clairvoyant and Sticky Fingers. In 1990 she appeared in the made-for-TV movie Challenger where she played the real-life wife of astronaut Michael J. Smith, who died in the Challenger explosion. She continued to guest star on TV shows, including Thirtysomething and L.A. Law. She won a GLAAD award for her role on L.A. Law, as a love interest for C.J. Lamb, a bisexual character played by Amanda Donohoe. She played two different characters in two episodes of Law & Order and her most recent film — A Crack in Everything — was filmed last year.
In 1975, Kemp became a Lifetime Member of The Actor’s Studio, one of the youngest people to ever do so. She also taught at The Actor’s Studio Drama School at Pace University, even serving as the department chair. One of her students was Bradley Cooper, who she continued to coach throughout his career. When discussing Kemp while being interviewed on Inside the Actor’s Studio in 2011, the actor got visibly choked up: “I was never able to relax in my life before [meeting] her,” and he refered to being in her class as “The most sacred experience I’ve ever had.”
She also served as acting coach to Cooper’s A Star is Born co-star Lady Gaga, who dedicated a song to Kemp during her Saturday concert in Boston. Harvey Keitel was also one of her pupils.
Kemp’s legacy to the world of film and television is not only in her own talent, but in what she taught to several others who will continue to entertain us for many years to come.
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